10 Tips for Grocery Bill Savings

Here are 10 tips on how to save money on your grocery bill.

My quest to manage the weekly grocery budget continues and for the second week in a row I came in under $100.  Today’s bill was $80.18 after deducting $36.90 in store specials and coupons. Not bad for a family of six.  My grocery bill month-to-date is $178.41.

Here are some small but helpful tips that I’ve discovered along the way, both on my own and from others:

  1. Only go to the store once each week.  Small trips are expensive as you tend to be in for only one or two items but leave with five…three of which you probably wouldn’t have purchased in your weekly trip.  Plus you save on gas
  2. Make a list and divide into three categories exactly what is needed, what you are running low on and what you would like to get for future use if on sale.  I find the last one particularly helpful regarding spices, mixes and frozen items.
  3. Grab the store circular.  I’ve found bonus coupons in here and have saved as much as $10 on itmes that fit the above criteria
  4. Stick to your list.    I’ve become prudent to the point of unless it’s milk, bread or eggs, if it isn’t on sale I wait until it is.
  5. Tally your grocery bill as you shop.  This keeps you on track and familiar with prices over time.  You become a better shopper, specifically if your shopping involved more than one store.  It also helps you catch errors at the checkout.  Note – don’t be afraid to tell the cashier when the computer has the wrong price.  In many states, the law is the price posted on the shelf must be honored at checkout.
  6. Try store brands.  Many store brand items come from the same factories as name-brand items, they’re just packaged with a different label.  There are some items you may not want to switch for personal tastes, but give the store brands a whirl every so often and you may be pleasantly surprised.  Store brands can save you up to 50%
  7. Shop by the ounce.   Get your math skills out and shop by the ounce.  Often buying the larger size isn’t necessarily the best choice nor is the smaller bottle/size and cheaper price.  Look at the price and size (remember 1 lb = 16 oz.) and do the math.  Shopping by the ounce can provide significant savings at the checkout.
  8. Stock up!  There are certain items I know we consistently consume – chicken nuggets, peanut butter, frozen turkey burgers, etc.  As they go on sale – stock up!  Having a good stock of supplies in the freezer and pantry have allowed me to be under the $100 mark for the last two weeks.
  9. Rainchecks!  Don’t be shy about asking for a raincheck on sale items that are out of stock even if you didn’t need the item today.  Be sure and write down the name of the item, size (e.g. 28 oz. bag), price and sale price.  Ask the cashier or service desk for raincheck for future use.  I routinely do this on my “stock up” items.  Just because I didn’t need them today doesn’t mean I don’t want to save money the next time I have to buy.  Store rainchecks are typically good for 90 days.  It’s a free and easy coupon.  Today I scored a raincheck on a frozen food item worth $8.49. 
  10. Coupons  Who can forget coupons?  I’m not a coupon-clipper by nature but if you have a little time each week to scan and clip, it can take real dollars off of your weekly grocery bill.

What tips can you share? 


Food-Shopping Tips – Ask the Cashier

If there’s anyone who knows the food business and how to save, it’s the people working in the store. The New York Times ran an article today, Food-Shopping Tips Direct from the Store Manager with some interesting insights. 

Specifically –

WHAT KIND OF GROCER DO YOU PATRONIZE? So this is what you have to ask yourself: If you are patronizing a grocer that doubles your coupons, discounts your gasoline or runs other expensive promotions, how exactly are they staying in business? Are they gouging you on the second most popular brand when the most popular one goes on sale? Do prices bounce around so frequently that it’s impossible to keep the baseline in your head?

Shoppers can play the discount game and win by shopping six different stores, buying only the sale items and products they have coupons for, buying in bulk and then cooking from the pantry and freezer. 

As much as I love the thrill of the hunt, with gas prices above $4.40 in my area,  stores out of my usual route, three kids, two dogs and a full-time job, it’s a trade-off between my time budget and my money budget.

So what are you to do?  Ask the cashier.

Unlike the store manager, the cashiers and people at the customer service desk are probably a bit closer to feeling the same pinch you and I are in.  Rising food and gas prices and the need to make paychecks go furhter.

The next time you are in the store, take a few extra minutes to visit the Customer Service Desk and talk with the cashier during checkout.  Explain that your personal budget is tightening and your looking for some advice on how to shop smarter.   My bet is that each person will shower you with empathy and advice that will save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars each year.

On a recent trip to my local Safeway, I stopped off at the Customer Service Desk for a quick chat.  Janice, an employee for 12 years gave me a two tips on shopping smarter that have already paid off.

Grab the print circular at the entrance of the store.  I always thought these were junk touting what my card was already saving.  Not true!  The circular has additional specials and coupons.  I saved an additional $3.00 on a block of cheese that was on my list that day.

Raincheck!  Keep a pen and notepad handy.  When you see that an item you normally buy is on special and out of stock, write down the item, size and sale price.  While at the checkout, ask for a raincheck.  It’s a hand-written coupon for the item good for 90 days depending on the store. 

Even if it wasn’t on your list for today, it’s guaranteed savings for the next time you shop.   My husband used a raincheck this morning that I requested over the Memorial Day weekend.  At the time I had the raincheck written up for 4 packs of Hebrew National Hot Dogs, normally $4.99 each, on sale 2 for $5.00.  We didn’t need hot dogs, but the special had left the shelves empty.  We needed them this weekend and used our 2 for $5.00 to save $10.00 on the 4 packs.

Ask the cashier while at the checkout where they are finding the best deals both in and out of the store.   I’ve found better quality and less expensive places to buy meat and produce.  I’ve learned what to avoid in the store – “it’s always priced too high, even with the specials” and what’s always a bargain.

Restaurant.com Gift Certificates on the Cheap

In cruising my inbox and web sites the following deal popped up – dining out has never been so cheap!

Regular prices: $25 restaurant gift certificates for $10. 
Deal: 60% off + an additional $10 gift certificate for each gift certificate purchased. 

Coupon code: MEALS
Expires: June 30, 2008